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The library of essays of Proakatemia

About coaching.

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This essay aims to help familiarize with coaching methodology and reflects on the differences between coaching and teaching or mentoring. While providing insight into what can be expected from the coach and the student based on my experience from my first two years (2020-2022) at Proakatemia.

Coaching is one of the most powerful methods used to unlock one’s potential. You can find a variety of coaching definitions, many times depending on a special focus (e.g. approach, target group). Grant´s definition of coaching:

“Coaching is a goal-oriented, solution-focused process in which the coach works with the coachee to help identify and construct possible solutions, delineate a range of goals and options, and then facilitate the development and enactment of action plans to achieve those goals” (Grant, 2006, pp. 156–157).

One of the best ways to understand coaching is to clarify how it’s different from other forms of support like teaching, counselling, and mentoring. The difference between coaching and other formats of interaction may seem trivial, but the impact of each can vary significantly. Some roles are directive by nature because they require authority and expertise. Other roles are non-directive, passing off the responsibility and ownership to the person being helped.

Teaching /counselling

When teaching, the lecturer introduces new knowledge or demonstrates new skills or an attitude for students to learn. Counselling is similar to teaching in terms of the form of knowledge transfer. The counsellor has the task to help by analyzing problems and answering questions and can give direct suggestions to the person who advises. Since the counsellor needs the relevant expertise to understand and solve problems or answer technical questions, he or she must be an expert in the subject.


Mentoring is also a learning relationship between two people: a very experienced professional on one side and a young, less experienced professional (often in the same field) on the other side. In mentoring, the idea is that the experienced person helps the still inexperienced person with their knowledge, experience, but also networks to enter and advance in – mostly – the same professional field. In this process, the mentor passes on his or her knowledge without doing so in a specific structured procedure (as in the case of coaching or counselling, for example).


Coaching can be seen as a specific form of counselling: while the classical counsellor provides direct suggestions for solutions and new knowledge in an adapted way, the coach accompanies the development of the individual’s own solutions. Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance, but the assumption is that the individual seeking out coaching already has the expertise and knowledge needed. With the use of targeted questions and other forms of interventions, the coach guides the coachee to find a solution for him or herself that suits him or her. It is a result- and solution-oriented form of counselling and the objectives are to help the coachee to solve problems or to clarify questions and support the reflective capacity. Coaching helps to improve or restore the capacity to act. Coaching is non-directive, where the answer is not known and waiting to be discovered, while teaching is directive, with an idea of the path learners are on and the questions that will be asked.

The difference – the way I see it.

The main difference between coaching and teaching, at first sight, is that teacher usually the one who does all the talking, while a coach will stay rather quiet.
A teacher is seen as the one who has all the answers and the coach is the person who helps to form the right questions and gives hints to students on where to look for the answers. Furthermore, the coach listens to understand the core issue and doesn’t answer the question on the surface. Helps students to reflect instead of just telling and directing. Often we have the answers to the questions, but we are unable to see them. The teacher would simply give an answer, while the coach will paraphrase and ask more questions. Finally summarising and reflection are very important things in the team learning model. Each student will have to learn these skills, but in the beginning, the coach’s role is crucial to getting fruitful results. Another important task is to adjust the challenge, while the students take full responsibility for their learning, it’s the coach who reads the room and can challenge people accordingly.

Example challenges in teamwork:

  • project leader
  • presenting/pitching the idea to the team or to the outside audience
  • contacting outside of the team, companies, experts etc

The goal of these challenges is the accelerate the learning. These cannot really happen without self-leadership and clear goals. One must know where they are going and the coach will help to explore and bring out their potential.

It is expected for the student to build self-awareness, which will be useful during the transition process from teaching to coaching. According to theory U (Otto Scharmer), we need to have an open mind, an open heart and an open will.

These 3 stages Scharmer explains:
1. Voice of Judgement. Once we start judging our ability to create new ideas dies out. Curiosity helps to fight the judge within us and both exclude each other. Stay curious.

2. Voice of Cynicism blocks our ability to be vulnerable and hopeful.

3. Voice of Fear is our self-critic, it takes away our courage to open our minds to a new challenge and try.

I myself notice these sensations on a daily basis and as my coach Taru pointed out, it’s up to me how I will act on them. I know that I already have the skills to make the right choice. It requires self-discipline and good self-leadership.

There are various ways to improve self-leadership, but the main thing that comes to my mind is goal setting, it has been an essential part of my learning path. Hope theory by Snyder has been one of the first real tools I got familiar with. It’s fairly simple, There are three main elements.

  1. Keep your goals in mind most of the time.
  2. Have a plan for how to achieve them.
  3. Find motivation to follow the plan.

Simple right? In order to be successful despite everyone’s own definition of it, one must learn how to set clear goals. It will help to focus the energy and prioritise accordingly. It’s good to have big dreams, but often these might be unattainable right from the start. From my own experience that’s often the case for many new students. That’s ok, let’s break it down. According to Ben Hunt-Davis and Harriet Beveridge, authors of “Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?” to achieve the crazy goals, we must have 3 other layers, the concrete layer, the control layer and the everyday layer. (4 layers in total). The concrete layer provides the structure and way to measure the progress towards the final goal. The author’s example is to become an Olympic gold winner. That’s crazy, but when we think of rowing 2000m distance at a 5min 18sec it does start to feel more specific and attainable. While not all the aspects are under our control. We cannot control how fast competitors are, but we can control how much we train. Then going to the last layer, the everyday layer. These are the actions we take every day to make the boat go faster.

Hint: the measuring tool was simply to ask oneself: does it make the boat go faster?

This approach mixed with the hope theory in the video does provide a solid base for achieving your learning goals in future.


Hunt-Davis B, Beveridge H. 2011 Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? Olympic-winning Strategies for Everyday Success. Second Edition. Leics: Troubador Publishing

Kremen School of Education and Human Development. 2016. Hope Theory – Make Your Life better. Released on 02.16.2016 Read on 01.05.2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuHZhi1B4T4

Maria Joutsenvirta, Aalto University. 2022. Theory U – How to lead from the future while it emerges. Published on 24.01.2022. Read on 01.05.20222. https://www.aalto.fi/en/news/theory-u-how-to-lead-from-the-future-while-it-emerges

TAMK E-coaching project. Anne Bastian, Henri Annala, Kamil Wojcik, Timo Nevalainen. Material created for the e-coaching project. 2022.

Dynamic and entrepreneurial developer of new ideas. Focus on coaching and sustainable development.

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